Brain Balance Achievement Center helps children with learning difficulties

Brain Balance Achievement Centers opened its first Nevada location in Henderson to help children with neurobehavioral and learning difficulties without the use of medications.

The program, at 11 S. Stephanie St., is an after-school learning center that helps children with special needs ranging from attention deficit disorder and d yslexia to a utism and Tourette’s syndrome, whether they have been diagnosed or not.

“Our goal is to help as many children as possible,” said Dr. Susan DeVito, the executive director of the center. “We hope to change the brain early enough to help children grow up to be fully functional, independent, happy adults.”

Brain Balance Achievement Centers is in 34 states with 54 locations. It is open to school-aged children.

“So from 4 years old until they are seniors in high school,” DeVito said. “We have the ability to go a little older like 19 or 20, but that is on a case-by-case basis.”

DeVito said the centers try to keep the focus on school-aged children to make an impact on the children before they enter adulthood.

After DeVito read “Disconnected Kids: The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders” by Dr. Robert Melillo, who founded Brain Balance , she knew she had to bring the center to Southern Nevada.

Melillo, a specialist in childhood neurological disorders, created the center to focus on the imbalance between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Through a comprehensive approach, the center attempts to address the imbalance to improve the child’s brain and hopefully his life . This is done drug-free.

DeVito said she understands a parent’s choice to put a child on medication to help with needs and learning challenges. However, she also recognizes that many seek an alternative .

“Most turn to (medications) because they feel they have no other choice,” DeVito said. “The question we find every parent asks is, ‘When does this end?’ “

Instead of a temporary fix, DeVito thinks Brain Balance’s approach finds a more permanent solution by changing the brain.

DeVito added that there has been an increase of cases of children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD in the past 10 years , congruently with the number of medications offered to help.

“There is no lack of availability of (those medications),” DeVito said. “The numbers (of children diagnosed with learning disabilities) are increasing, not decreasing.”

If parents suspect their child has a need that prevents him from learning at his optimal potential, they can bring him to the center for an assessment even if he hasn’t been diagnosed.

“We believe all those letters (such as ADD or ADHD) are just alphabet soup,” DeVito said. “They don’t matter if we can just change the brain.”

During the assessment, the staff determines which hemisphere in the brain is weaker. Children then enter a 12-week program of motor, cognitive and sensory exercises in attempt to rebalance both hemispheres of the brain.

“Our goal is to strengthen the weaker hemisphere,” DeVito said.

Through research, the center found that to get the best results, participants should come into the center for one hour a day, three days a week. At the end of the 12 weeks, the child is reassessed the same way he was assessed at the beginning.

“That way we can compare apples to apples and the parents can see their progress,” DeVito said.

Even though the center opened only in December, DeVito said the staff has have seen positive results. About 30 families have sought help so far.

After her 10-year-old son was diagnosed with d yslexia, Bridget Mecham decided to give the center a chance.

“My neighbor actually told me about it because she knew about my son,” Mecham said.

While sitting in a parents meeting, DeVito explained to Mecham about the right and left hemispheres and imbalances that occur.

“It all made sense,” Mecham said. “Everything they said correlated with what the child psychologist who diagnosed him said. So he started the program a week later.”

Even though the Mechams have about four weeks left, they already have seen progress.

“I can already tell a difference in his attitude,” Mecham said. “I see a difference in his vocabulary and the way he retells a story.”

Mecham, who is a second-grade teacher, thinks programs such as this are beneficial.

“I have seen a lot of children (in the Clark County School District) who go through intervention, get help, get a tutor and all the other things we are able to give them and still have delays,” Mecham said. “This program considers the whole child. It looks at their diet and physical habits. It makes a lot of sense.”

Mecham’s biggest highlight isn’t just in her son’s learning progress but also in his demeanor after he leaves a lesson at the center.

“He was always depressed because of the struggles he went through at school,” Mecham said. “He said, ‘I just feel so much better after I leave Brain Balance.’ That’s worth a million dollars.”

For more information, call 778-9500.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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